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Chess Match: Faith in Lee rewarded

Chess Match: Faith in Lee rewarded

PHILADELPHIA -- Knowing your players and having faith in how they'll react to certain situations is one of the intangible qualities a good manager needs to possess, and it was magnified on both sides of the spectrum in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel made a key decision before the game even started by handing the ball to starter Cliff Lee, and Rockies manager Jim Tracy might have left his starter, Ubaldo Jimenez, in the game a bit too long. The result was a resounding Phillies win and a crucial 1-0 lead in this best-of-five set for the defending World Series champions.

The Cliff-hanger
The situation: Choosing a Game 1 starter for the Phillies.

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The decision: Manuel bucks a two-years-running tradition and causes mild agida throughout the City of Brotherly Love by going with playoff rookie Lee instead of postseason veteran Cole Hamels to set the tone for the series.

The outcome: Lee dazzles, throwing shutout ball for 8 2/3 innings before allowing one run in a complete game. He also singles in his first at-bat, steals second base for the first stolen base by a pitcher in Phillies postseason history, and executes a perfect sacrifice bunt in the breakout sixth. Not bad for a guy with only a third of a season in the NL.

The analysis: This is why Manuel works so well for this Phillies team. He is willing to choose his head over his heart, and for the most part, Lee was better throughout the season than Hamels. Hamels still gets the ball in Game 2, and the Phillies have a 1-0 lead, so everyone wins.

"I tried to treat it as much like a regular game as I could. Obviously there's more excitement and energy with the playoff game, but it's still 60 feet, 6 inches to home plate, still the same strike zone. ... I knew there was going to be a little bit more adrenaline, but for the most part I tried to treat it like a normal start." -- Lee

Hot-water Jimenez hits
The situation: Jimenez, seemingly tiring in the stretch, gives up two runs in a 35-pitch fifth inning and is slated to lead off the batting order in the top of the sixth.


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The decision: Tracy leaves Jimenez in the game, allowing him to hit.

The outcome: Jimenez strikes out to lead off the sixth, setting up a 1-2-3 inning for Lee, then gives up a leadoff single to Chase Utley, a stolen base, an RBI double to Ryan Howard and an RBI triple to Jayson Werth before being pulled in favor of lefty Joe Beimel, who immediately allows a Raul Ibanez RBI single, and the Rockies fall behind, 5-0.

The analysis: Jimenez, behind in every count and climbing up in the zone, probably should have been lifted after he gave up a sharp two-out single to Jimmy Rollins in the fifth, but he was bailed out by Shane Victorino's soft flyout that ended the inning. It might have made more sense to lead off the inning with a right-handed pinch-hitter such as Ryan Spilborghs.

"He was really, really on his game into the fifth inning. He had all his stuff. His pitch count was probably ... in better shape than it's been in any game he's pitched over the last month. A 2-0 game, a single and a ball hit out of the ballpark and you're back tied. I don't think that's a very good message to send to a guy that after they scratch two runs off of him that you remove him from the game." -- Tracy

Complete-Lee
The situation: The Phillies go into the ninth inning with a 5-0 lead.


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The decision: Manuel lets Lee, at 96 pitches entering the inning, go for the shutout.

The outcome: Lee loses the shutout, giving up a single to Carlos Gonzalez, throwing a wild pitch that allowed Gonzalez to take second and allowing a Troy Tulowitzki double to drive in the Rockies' only run, but he nails down a complete-game victory on a relatively tame 113 pitches.

The analysis: Manuel could have let Brad Lidge pitch the inning to try to give the embattled now-part-time closer a confidence boost, but not using the bullpen at all was a more attractive option, especially the way Lee was cruising with a relatively low pitch count.

"I just had [reliever Ryan] Madson and [starter J.A.] Happ throwing there [in the ninth]. Of course, they were just getting loose. But I wasn't planning on using them, because I didn't think I was going to need them anyway. And Cliff kind of proved us right." -- Manuel

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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